Modes In Parallel

Difficulty: Spectrum

So now you have seen the modes all laid out in a series - the series of modes that come from one major scale. But what is really interesting and where you start to see where all this is going when you start to look at the modes in Parallel - which means that we look at all all the modes with the same tonal centre.

So we are going to start with looking at all the modes with a C Tonal Centre.

We have to do a bit or reverse calculation here - there are easier ways of doing what I am going to show you to start off with, but I think it is important to understand HOW we are getting the answers before I show you any shortcuts...

So we're looking at modes with a "C" tonal centre - and I hope you have memorised the order of the modes in the last lesson. And the order or tones and semitones in a major scale. If you don't have these things very clear and you are sketchy on the way chords are constructed, any of that, then download Practical Music Theory now and work through it - and come back when you are done, otherwise you're just going to end up with a terrible headache and be more confused than when you started!

Make sure you are clear on the terms Parent Major Scale and Tonal Centre. Important.

OK, so we know that the first mode with a C Tonal Centre is going to be Ionian, and that the Ionian Mode and the Parent Major Scale have the same root note. so:

C Ionian = C Major Scale 
(Ionian Parent Major Scale root note is the Tonal Centre)

That one is pretty easy. Not much going on there so we move onto the next. The second mode is Dorian. To figure out the Parent Major Scale (PMS) of C Dorian you have to ask "C is the second note of what major scale?". Just think about that for a second and decide if you know the answer already?

The answer lies in our old Major Scale Equation: T T S T T T S - From that you should know that the second note of the Major Scale is one tone higher than the root note. To work out the mode we are doing it backwards...

C is the second note of (count back one tone).... Bb Major Scale :) Not too hard is it. But make sure you get this - we're going to test you on this in a bit...

C Dorian = Bb Major Scale 
(Dorian Parent Major Scale root note is down a tone from Tonal Centre)

Next up we want to find the third mode, which is Phrygian, and want to find C Phrygian, so we need to count two steps down the major scale - which is down two tones right? The Major Scale Equation starts T T, so of course we just count down two tones down from C which is... Ab. Notice too that we call it Ab and not G# because we also count alphabetically down two steps from the C (C, B, A).

C Phrygian = Ab Major Scale 
(Phrygian Parent Major Scale root note is down two tones from Tonal Centre)

I hope that this is making sense for you, next up we are looking at Lydian mode, which is of course the fourth mode of the major scale. We want to find C Lydian, so we ask "C is the 4th note of which major scale?" so we need to go down 3 steps of the major scale... check the Major Scale Equation, the first 3 are T T S, so we need to go down two tones and 1 semitone from C. Can you work that out? I hope so. There is an easier way of doing this that I will explain later, but as I said you have to learn it long hand first... So C down a tone = Bb down a tone = Ab down a semitone = G.

C Lydian = G Major Scale 
(Lydian Parent Major Scale root note is down two tones and one semitone from Tonal Centre)

More than half way there now. And next up we have the fifth mode, Mixolydian. Of course we are looking for C Mixolydian, so again... C is the fifth note of which major scale? You are now going down T T S T. Count back carefully and work it out. You can do it.

C Mixolydian = F Major Scale 
(Mixolydian Parent Major Scale root note is down three tones and one semitone from Tonal Centre)

Aeolian Modes is next up, the sixth mode. Now to get this one we are going to have to count back T T S T T - which is a lot! And those of you thinking 'I can count up easier than all that', well you are right, but humor me and just count them back for now, we'll go through easier ways to do this in the next lesson... so get counting, take it slow, get it right and hope you come up with...

C Aeolian = Eb Major Scale 
(Aeolian Parent Major Scale root note is down four tones and one semitone from Tonal Centre)

OK, last one, and yes I want you to count backwards again.... so count back T T S T T T from C and you should get...

C Locrian = Db Major Scale 
(Locrian Parent Major Scale root note is down five tones and one semitone from Tonal Centre)

Wey hey! We're through it. Hope your head is not hurting too much! When I first learned this it took quite a lot of thinking before it settled in... but as I know now - the way to learn things fastest and best is to DO it - and in this case I'm going to give you a little exercise to do that will speed up your understanding of this, and then in the next lesson I'm going to show you a bunch or shortcuts and make sure you can work out the Parent Major Scale of ANY mode in a few seconds! But first up - please take the time to do the following exercise the long way - you will reap the benefits later!

Study Exercise

So we just looked at all the modes with a C Tonal Centre. What I want you to do is go through the same method I used above, counting back from the tonal centre to find the Parent Major Scale in the key of G (don't be cheating now, even if you can see how).

So you want to work out the Parent Major Scale for all the G Modes, G Ionian, G Dorian, G Phrygian etc. Then write it all down like:

G Ionian = ____ Parent Major Scale
G Dorian = ____ Parent Major Scale

Once you have finished all the modes in G you might want to try another key... E would be a good one to do next that will give your grey mater a work out :)


Once you are through that you should be ready for me to show you the easy way ;)

Major Scale Modes



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